It’s Dodgers Day here, I guess. Next up: their perpetually messed up TV situation.
As we’ve talked about many, many times in the past, the Dodgers own their own cable network, SportsNet LA, along with Time Warner. Obviously the channel appears on Time Warner cable in southern California. Most homes in Los Angeles do not get Time Warner Cable, however. They get DirecTV or AT&T or Verizon or Cox or someone. As a result, right out of the box, the Dodgers and Time Warner had to get carriage deals for their channel on those other cable networks in order for the Dodgers to be seen in L.A.
Except they haven’t been able to. Since 2014, the majority — at first the vast, vast majority — of Dodgers fans in L.A. could not see their team. Why? Because the other cable carriers balked at the steep asking price for the Dodgers channel. Those fees are charged per-subscriber. Verizon, for example, would have to pay the Dodgers and Time Warner, say, $5 per subscriber, to carry it. That cost is passed along to the subscribers, of course. Including those who don’t watch any sports at all or who don’t like the Dodgers. Everyone’s cable bills go up-and-up and, eventually, many people just say “forget it, I don’t want cable anymore.” So-called cord-cutters have cut into the bottom line both broadcasters and carriers in recent years.
In the past year or so there has been a touch of progress. Charter and Bright House cable have taken on the Dodgers. But most people still can’t see them on their cable systems. So now the Dodgers and Time Warner have lowered the price. From the L.A. Times:
As part of the new proposal, Time Warner Cable has offered the channel to other providers at a cost of about $3.50 per month per subscriber home, according to two people familiar with the proposal who were not authorized to discuss deal terms.
The proposal fashioned by Time Warner Cable would be a one-year deal covering the upcoming season.
So far, none of the other pay-TV providers have agreed to play ball, although talks with at least two providers are in the early stages and are expected to accelerate in the next week as the new season approaches, said two knowledgeable people who asked not to be identified.
Maybe this new, lower price gets the Dodgers on cable systems that serve more people in Los Angeles. Maybe it doesn’t. One wonders, however, if a lot of people have simply gotten used to the idea of never watching the Dodgers on TV and even at this reduced price it doesn’t work out great for the carriers.
Also: maybe that lower price — $3.50 instead of $5 or whatever — means that the Dodgers’ multi-billon cable deal will cause Time Warner to take a bath and will make giving teams such large deals seem like a less appealing idea in the future.
Major League Baseball is fueled by cable TV dollars. There are signs that this fuel is the result of an unsustainable bubble. I feel like, a few years from now, the broadcast and financial landscape of MLB and sports in general is gonna look very, very different than it does now.